Siddharth PatilBroad Street in Newark, NJCC0 1.0

By Bradford Mason

As New Jersey begins opening back up, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka outlines plans for a phased reopening of his city that is slated to start in June.
Newark continues to be one of the hardest hit places in the nation by COVID-19 with the city seeing over 4,000 confirmed cases of the virus. Baraka said at a recent news conference that the first phase of the reopening is being called a “preparation.” Gov. Phil Murphy lifted some stay at home restrictions with the allowing stores to do curbside pickup, construction resuming and opening state beaches.

“Phase One is about us getting prepared to open. We’re advancing, but it also gives us room to retreat if the numbers go back up,” Baraka said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents.”  

Baraka said his decision is based on data that shows a continued decline in COVID-19 cases and from the recommendations of the “Newark Reopening and Recovery Strikeforce.” The data collected shows while Newark has increased testing 100 percent, the percentage of people who have tested positive has dropped dramatically, as well as reported cases and deaths.

As word from state officials that some businesses were permitted to reopen, Baraka said he received reports of some business owners not following social distancing guidelines to serve customers and the city closed them.

“We shut down most of those stores yesterday, gave them an application to fill out, and told them they had to fill out an application and come up with a plan with how they’re going to do the curbside,” he said. “Because they have people who are trying on sneakers on the sidewalk, as I imagined, people trying on pants on the sidewalk, people getting their nails done on the sidewalk.”

As part of Phase One, Newark will institute a color-coded system for consumers to decide where they want to do businesses based on the risks involved. Businesses, restaurants, parks and other public places will display color-coded signage, with red being the highest risk area, yellow more moderate, and green the lowest risk area.

The Mayor gave the example of basketball courts probably being coded red because of the crowds and the nature of the game which does not favor social distancing.
“We want people to know if you go to these places, you run a high risk of getting sick,” he said.
Other Phase One components include:
  • Recreation centers, parks and playgrounds will remain closed; block parties and special events will remain on hold. All faith-based services can be held via teleconference or virtually. 
  • Information centers will be established in each ward and 4311 will be expanded to include a dedicated COVID-19 information hotline. Additionally, a technology task force will be created to develop a sustainable citywide strategy for universal access to Wi-Fi and the hardware necessary for remote learning.
  • An isolation and quarantine plan will be developed for those who cannot create one themselves. Guidance will be provided around emotional hurdles and fears related to medical mistrust.
  • Lastly, letters will be sent to all businesses requesting plans to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. City licensing, approvals and permitting processes will be adjusted to streamline what can be expedited and waived.

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